Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Political Strategery

Amidst jaunting words from Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Hill-dawg grasping at every last straw there is, and a clear-cut division within the democratic party, John McCain is using one of the oldest tricks in the book to secure his spot in the oval office: poking fun at himself, and doing it quite well.

While the democrats have not had much time to sling mud at the republican hopeful, McCain does have some dirt on his face that will question his ability to take the rains come next January- mainly the fact that he is old enough to have known my great great grandmother. Other than being considered Bush Jr., the largest public criticism of the long-time politician is his age. America just withstood Cheney's dodgy heart and Bush almost went down from a pretzel, they are weary of another president being on their last leg. That and the generation gap creates quite a cultural division between McCain and the bulk of the voting public.

The issue of McCain's age exploded a week or so ago when Obama dropped the line that McCain had "lost his bearings" on an issue. Thought to be a dig on McCain's age in addition to a disagreement over policy, the McCain camp responded with a rather terse statement. It seemed that the election was beginning a downward spiral into a personal, bitter and, let's admit, entertaining campaign war.

At the time, it seemed surprising that McCain would jump so quickly and so emphatically over a short quip that was not a direct attack. Much like the issue of race, the more your make a big deal over it and talk about it, the more of an issue it becomes, when in reality it should be a non-issue. It seems a strategic mis-step for the McCain camp to really address the issue of age, rather than ignore it, claim it as being irrelevant, and letting the issue fade into the background.

McCain, wisely, took another route. He addressed the issue in a serious manner first and this past weekend appeared on Saturday Night Live to make fun of himself for being old:

McCain, I think, accomplished three important things through this appearance. First, by making fun of himself for being old he made the issue of him being old less important. People seem to be accepting of perceived negative qualities if the person admits to having those qualities. The line "but at least they know they are [insert negative adjective here]" is commonplace. McCain should embrace his age and make it his own unique quality. It's all about spinning the issues.

Second, the appearance is endearing and humbling. With the republican brand in trouble, McCain's character and image are extremely critical in terms of him garnering support from a deteriorating voter base. America likes a humble president. Part of Bush's appeal to the blue collar vote was that he was someone they would want to have over for dinner. This appearance connected McCain with the people, obviously.

Lastly, the people McCain connected with are the younger generation. Think about the issue of age and then think about the generation that watches Saturday Night Live. He not only made fun of his age, but did it to a younger audience that is probably most concerned about his age. McCain is winning strategically right now with the democrats still locked in the primary race.

1 comment:

HelloMyNamesJen said...

Also note that the "old" joke on SNL has been ongoing - Amy Poehler had a news report to announce that John McCain "is in fact... old." Only then, instead of the actual John McCain, it was whatshisname, from the SNL cast, addressing the issue of whether or not a president's age mattered. Poehler presented evidence showing McCain entering a dinner buffet at 4:30 in the afternoon. Then, two 80-year-old Long Islanders confirmed that his actions did in fact indicate that John McCain is old.

In another smart move to address the voting generation gap, McCain has also had appearances on The Daily Show.